We all know it – no pain no gain right? There’s really no short cuts to exercise, it’s just you, hard graft, the gym and maybe a fitness instructor or if you can afford it, a personal trainer.
You put in the work, your muscles hurt like crazy, you walk like John Wayne for a while and bit by bit you get your results.
Well some people do, and actually a lot don’t. They either fall off the exercise bandwagon (who wants to sign up and pay to get hurt anyway?), or find out it’s just not working – figuring ‘it’s not you, it’s me, I’m just not designed for this, I’m never gonna be the person that actually wins the race/reaches the target/gets a 6 pack (delete as appropriate), much less enjoys this.’
Or maybe you get further, but that knee injury just keeps coming back or you get further still but it’s just not realistic that you can keep up the time, or cost all year round to do all this especially once the summer hits or work gets busy or it’s Christmas season and there is just so much other stuff to do…
Behold the exercise yoyo, it’s a miserable toy that just keeps coming back. Before you get into this in classic January fashion, STOP…..
Very few people stop to notice and think about what their body is actually DOING when they exercise. Like really notice, if their physical body is actually doing the moves well or in way that is aligned and supporting good movement. If you stop to notice this stuff first you’ll find exercise becoming easier and you’ll be less likely to pick up injuries.
1) Watch someone else doing the exercise you want to do: in the park, on a you tube video, at a live sports event or on TV. If you’re in the park, don’t be freaky, do it from a distance, observe more than one person and not for too long. Observe general things about the movement, you’re not looking to give a detailed account about someone.
2) Watch yourself: There are several apps (I have Coach's Eye) that let you video yourself, watch it back, slow it down and make handy, exercise, coach style notes. Get someone to film you walking, running, swimming, doing some yoga, a HIIT session and watch it back. Again do it broadly, we’re not wanting to get honed into how weird you think your exercise face is, it’s completely normal to not love seeing yourself on camera, you are just using this to help you learn, save time and minimise future injuries.
3) Go to a tai chi class. Very few activities in my opinion come close to Tai Chi in their ability to teach you how to move smoothly with minimal tension. Enjoy.
4) Go back to the beginning. If you can get in the habit of regularly booking a beginners class or induction. Each time you have the chance to go to a slowed down version of the activity and learn more and more in detail about how to exercise well. Lose your ego about it and reap the rewards, it’s literally a golden opportunity, take it.
5) Use a mirror. From time to time grab a mirror and notice what your body is up to; are your moves looking integrated and strong? and are you doing what you think you're doing in terms of your alignment? Make tweaks where you can, but do it carefully. If you're always used to bending that right knee a certain way and at a certain angle, any change will be significant at first.
Now at this point, you’ve probably made some changes for the better and you may well also have a few observations and questions. One of the people you can turn to is an Alexander Technique Teacher. People in our profession spend over 1600 hours training their eyes to notice whether someone is moving in an integrated way while also training their hands to be able to support you to make more effective movements. Even one lesson can make a difference.
Make your exercise life easier, because when it feels good to move you’ll want to do it more.